Editorial: The future of news in an era of lost news

A few decades ago, the Wichita Eagle was, essentially, a statewide newspaper, circulated in more than 70 of the counties in Kansas.

Located in the state's industrial hub, the Eagle built its national reputation as an unabashed proponent of civic journalism, one that actively engages its audience in its coverage.

Today, the 147-year-old newspaper institution, now owned by the McClatchy Company, is printed 200 miles away in Kansas City, Missouri, along with the Kansas City Star, the Lawrence Journal-World and the Topeka Capital-Journal.

It's once blanket distribution has now shrunk to 10 counties.

Our point isn't to single out the Eagle, but merely to cite it as one of myriad examples across the country.

We're living in an era of lost newspaper coverage, and the implications of that loss are chilling.

Some say, for instance, that it is part of the explanation for the sharp partisan divisions that afflict the nation, that traditional newspapers play a role in bringing neighbors together even in disagreements, that the social media that has been taking its place tends to encourage misinformation and galvanization - hardening positions rather than helping to test and expand them.

There are many more implications than that, of course.

A couple of our editors are going to get into some of those implications Wednesday night at a free Facts Matter discussion offered as part of the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Community Ed program.

The interactive event runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Forest View Educational Center, 2121 S. Goebbert Road, Arlington Heights.

Please join us. You can register by calling 847-718-7700 and asking to sign up for program 1687, "Facts Matter: The Threat to Local Media." Or you can register online at

While you're on the line, you also can register for three other Facts Matter programs our editors will be hosting on Wednesdays, Sept. 25, Oct. 16 and Nov. 6.

While we can all debate the implications and the future of news, the threat to the country's long-standing newspaper tradition is both apparent and relentless, and its greatest impact across the nation has been on local community news coverage - for a variety of reasons but largely because of its expense.

Since 2004, the country has lost 1,779 newspapers, many have been dailies but the vast majority of them have been weekly newspapers.

There are parts of the country now described as news deserts but the loss in coverage extends everywhere.

This is a problem with no easy or obvious solution.

And the loss of news and information is particularly a problem for a government by the people built around the notion of an informed citizenry.

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